Black Bird Updates: Where Is James Keene Now?


Convict Jimmy Keene helped take down suspected serial killer Larry Hall before his release. Here’s what Keene has done since and where he is now.

Twenty-three years after James Keene left prison, the former American drug dealer has become the focus of Apple TV+’s latest crime drama, Black Bird, raising questions about his work with the FBI and where he is now. While in prison, the FBI approached Black Bird‘s Jimmy Keene with an offer he couldn’t resist: complete his sentence without the possibility of parole or go undercover to help them get a confession from Larry Hall, a suspected serial killer, in exchange for an early release. Despite the dangers, Keene accepted the deal, transferred to the US Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Missouri, and gained Hall’s trust. Hall admitted to killing 19-year-old Tricia Lynn Reitler but refused to reveal where he kept her body.

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Apple TV+’s Black Bird, based on James Keene’s memoir, follows the former high school football champion as he attempts to cinch his last shot at redemption. Despite his leading Kankakee East High school football team, the star athlete did not get recruited by any major college squad, leaving him to turn to deal drugs. This drug involvement that led to Keene’s 1996 arrest and subsequent 10-year prison sentence forms the plot of Apple TV+’s Black Bird show.

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Jimmy Keene, played by Taron Egerton in Black Bird, was the FBI’s last shot at getting a confession out of Hall before his appeal went through. The authorities had earlier gotten a confession out of the murderer, but he later backtracked, claiming that his confession was related to certain dreams and not an admission of guilt. Thus, Keene was the final piece in the puzzle. Unfortunately, he blew his cover soon after seeing a map with Hall where the murderer had traced the location of some of his alleged victims. The FBI still considered Keene’s actions worthy of an early release and wiped his criminal record clean.


Everything That Happened To Jimmy Keene After Getting Out Of Jail


Taron Egerton as Jimmy and Sepideh Moafi as Lauren in Black Bird

Since his 1999 release, Keene has written a memoir, which he released in 2010. Recently, he released an expanded version of the memoir under a new title, Black Bird: One Man’s Freedom Hides in Another Man’s Darkness. The book inspired Black Birdfor which Keene was an executive producer and even attended the premiere in Los Angeles.

In his book, Keene expressed no regrets about his role in the FBI stint, revealing that it allowed him to spend more time with his father, who passed over five years later, in 2004. Speaking with NBC’s Dateline host during a 2012 appearance, Keene revealed that he felt proud that his story, which inspired Black Bird, led to the reopening of some cold cases involving Hall. Currently, Keene lives in Illinois, a free man with newfound success in real estate.


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